(Singapore, 1 July 2020)  Technology was ranked the top investment priority for 2020 by two in three small businesses, a recent survey of 1,000 ASEAN small businesses has revealed.

The survey, conducted by United Overseas Bank (UOB), Accenture, and Dun & Bradstreet, seeks to understand how the small firms were adapting to the business environment given the changes brought on by the pandemic.

Across ASEAN, Thailand had the highest proportion (71 per cent) of respondents prioritising technology investments in 2020, followed by Indonesia (65 per cent), Vietnam (63 per cent), Singapore (60 per cent) and Malaysia (59 per cent).

The survey also found that small businesses across ASEAN are persevering in their efforts to invest in technology even when faced with the prospect of declining revenue.

Although 88 per cent of these businesses have lowered their revenue expectations in 2020, almost half of them(44 per cent) still plan to increase their overall technology budget.

This suggests that ASEAN small businesses are looking beyond the present challenges and are set on adopting technology to improve their competitiveness and sustainability.

Mr Lawrence Loh, Head of Group Business Banking, UOB, said: “The unprecedented economic, business and social impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has underscored the importance of technology for many small businesses across the region.”

“Having had to cope with the disruption to their operations as a result of COVID-19, many of these firms realised quickly that technology can make all the difference to their business,” he added, noting that whether in revising their business models or even transforming their operations, small businesses are responding to the changes brought about by the pandemic by turning to technology to ensure their long-term viability and competitiveness.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 small businesses with annual turnover of $20 million and below before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the third quarter of 2019 and May 2020 respectively. Small businesses in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam were surveyed.

By industry sector, small businesses from the food and beverage (F&B), information and communications technology and healthcare sectors (50 per cent) indicated the strongest desire to boost their technology investments, followed by those in construction (48 per cent) and retail trade (46 per cent).

As small businesses across ASEAN embrace technology as a means of ensuring a more sustainable business model for the long term, they recognise that technology can also help them better manage their cash flow.

Eight in 10 (81 per cent) small businesses across the region ranked the use of digital solutions as their most preferred cash flow management method. For instance, digital solutions such as UOB BizSmart enables small businesses to issue electronic invoices to manage their account receivables more promptly.

Google My Business is a free tool that enables businesses in Singapore to build their online profile so that potential customers can find them more easily. UOB has worked with Google to streamline the registration process so that businesses can register for the tool more easily.